In reality, the open-world genre has made linear narrative hooks even more obvious, while exacerbating the issue by undercutting any sense of stakes, of pacing, of the things stories typically rely on. The Witcher 3's main story is padded by hours of riding a horse across fields, of playing cards and participating in backroom brawls and running errands for villagers. And that (excellently-written) filler serves a purpose — it grounds Geralt in the world, lets us identify with him and his lifestyle as a player.
It's a masquerade, though. At the end of the day there's still a "main story," regardless of how much CD Projekt tries to weave the various strings of Geralt's "life" together. And those strings just don't want to weave together — the stakes set up by one half are directly at odds with the leisurely pace of the other half.
The result: I'm convinced The Witcher 3 is near the top of some sort of plateaued curve. Like, at some point based on the amount of resources a developer can conceivably throw at a game, the amount of man-hours that can go into its creation, et cetera, we will have a "best open-world RPG." The Witcher 3 is near that point. It does so many things better than its predecessors.
But there are still tons of issues, and the issues left over are things inherent to the way developers approach the genre. There is no "fix." Not if we keep trying to reinvent a square wheel.
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